By Aaron Richter
Transforming from a bespectacled indie-rock dweeb into a burgeoning metal head isn’t easy. First, there’s the feeling of discouraging ignorance, that no matter what you’re listening to, now matter how fantastic it is, you simply like it because, well, it’s metal and you either heard or read somewhere that it’s supposed to be good. Maybe let’s call that a lack of discerning taste. This can be acquired easy enough. And with enough dedication you’ll be touting the merits of Dopethrone and impressing friends at parties with your sub-basic knowledge of Ã˜ystein Aarseth’s murder.
A much more difficult mountain to climb, so to speak, is the girlfriend. She can’t be ignored. Or disregarded. No, that won’t do. Because she’s hot and awesome. And no Matt Pike bellow or Mick Harris blast beat is worth losing the love of your life over. (Unless, of course, she sucks, in which case this article is probably not for you.) Any true metal obsession means that she’ll be forced to digest extreme music at least once a day, intentionally or not. And for the uninitiated, that’s a lot to bear. Thus, altering her tastes becomes a conquest of sorts, one in which you must triumph. Here are ten necessary steps to victory.
1. Start with something she can tolerate.
Might we suggest Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut or Paranoid. Ozzy is a voice she’ll recognize, if not from TV, at least from “Crazy Train.” And the blues riffs will remind her of Led Zeppelin, which she loves (especially II, which is overrated). Also, believe it or not, but a steady diet of mainstream ’90s rock such as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Jane’s Addiction just might break through her first wall of distaste. Be sure to pepper your conversation while listening with such comments as “Wow, that’s a brutal riff” and “Hell, Billy Corgan might be a candy-ass, but the yelling part of ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ is fuckin’ metal” (emphasizing the word metal) when necessary to solidify the connection.
2. Help her understand that not all metal is Cradle of Filth.
Despite this band’s ultimate suckiness, Cradle of Filth is, without hesitation, the first thing that comes into your girlfriend’s head when she thinks of metal, a travesty that absolutely must be remedied. This is a perfect time to introduce Mastodon, whose crossover appeal is known and proven.
3. Pay attention to volume.
Sure, the tendency is to crank it, but too loud and she’s gonna hate even the most righteous speed-picking. Keep your home stereo at a reasonable volume so she can do things other than be distracted by the music. A good gauge is whether she can read a book simultaneously. And be sure to get your levels right, with a powerful low end and well-balanced highs. In this instance, a crisp mix is much more valuable than obliterating the thin wall you share with your neighbor–no matter how much you hate him.
4. Explain yourself.
And be honest when she asks, “What the fuck is going on?” Tell her that lately you’ve been feeling the need to worship Satan, and not being skilled in the art of virgin sacrifice, you figured that a daily dose of Norwegian black was the next best thing. Unless she’s absolutely insane herself, she’ll be terrified by this, but explicate further. Note the appeal of virtuosity, that ultimate amazement of witnessing a musician perform at the top of his or her game. To play metal requires superb technical proficiency. You’d get the same feeling of awe watching Wynton Marsalis perform at a concert hall. If that’s not enough, discuss your admiration for the metal community’s pride in the end product, from working at prestigious recording studios to taking obsessive satisfaction in their gear to printing limited edition, high-quality vinyl. She’ll start to understand.
5. Invest in some quality ear buds.
Let’s face it. You’ll need to be a good boyfriend some of the time, and that means occasionally keeping your music private. But you can easily turn this hindrance into a positive. In-ear nose-cancelling ear buds are an essential purchase. They’re portable and let you delve deeper into the music, as layers and inconspicuous elements reveal themselves that you never could quite hear on your home stereo. Not to mention that Krallice’s kick drums are phenomenally assaultive with the right buds.
6. Take the next step with something badass.
Great music is undeniable, no matter your tastes. So keep this next selection impeccable without losing sight of elements she’ll recognize from her own playlists. Pay attention to a band’s singer; this is the primary source of her knee-jerk reactions. Try Baroness’s Red Album or everyone’s 2008 favorite, Meanderthal by Torche, both furious records with non-demonic vocals that won’t lead her to fashion a bedpost into a wooden stake for protection against “them.” Even if she doesn’t like it, her spectrum is expanding, and at least you tried.
7. Point out stuff that rules.
This gives her entry points into music she might otherwise resist entirely. By now, her metal appreciation is cursory at best, but she’ll have enough exposure to enjoy specific instances of extreme awesomeness. When you’re usually gobbling multicolored pills together (aka Wednesdays), instead of staring at the ceiling all night, set Nachtmystium’s “Seasick (Part 2: Oceanborne)” on repeat and zonk out to its psychedelic sax solo. Or thrash around your apartment to “Rumors of War” by High on Fire. Break kitchen dishes if need be. Just make sure she knows that Des Kensel’s thundering war drums get you ferociously amped and therefore require her closer inspection (at the very least to figure out why her favorite coffee mug is crumbled beside the toilet).
8. Encourage what she likes.
Notice when she responds positively to Kylesa‘s scorched-earth sludge guitars and play their upcoming record, Static Tension, constantly. Send her links to live Mastodon vids on YouTube, any clips spliced with Brent Hinds interviews (because he rules). And never, ever, ever call bullshit when it seems like she’s faking enjoyment just to prove she’s got cojones. She’ll learn quickly enough.
9. Test the waters.
At this point she’ll likely be developing a tolerance. So it’s worth taking a bit of a risk, even if it only lasts a few minutes before she’s threatening to withhold sex for an entire year. Grindcore is a prickly endeavor, but Pig Destroyer is a fitting poison for such a dangerous venture. Bolting without rest at a thrashing velocity, the group proves that even the most terrifyingly abrasive onslaught of noise and sustained volume can hold musically sophisticated charms, particularly when songs such as “Loathsome” and “Heathen Temple” race past the two minute mark and churn and slam with unexpected freedom. But do remember, when she yells for you to turn the music off (which she will), it’s best that you abide.
10. Give her hugs and candy.
Because she likes hugs. And candy.